11.12.18

Consumer Spending in Africa was $1.4 Trillion by 2015 – VP Prof. Osinbajo

Nigeria is a leading investment destination for potential and serious investors, and the business opportunities are abundant and increasing.

Consumer spending in Africa was $1.4 trillion by 2015, with Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa accounting for more than half of that total.

There is also increasing economic opportunities in Nigeria because of deliberate actions by our government to diversify the economy and improve the business environment. It is encouraging that there are significant economic ties between Nigeria and Germany. Germany is a significant exporter to Nigeria, which is its second largest trading partner in Africa. Recent reports show that German investment in Nigeria contributes as much as $1 billion in turnover annually. This is good, but we must agree that there is scope for even deeper collaboration given that Nigeria’s GDP is close to $500bn.

Agriculture perhaps presents one of the best investment opportunities in Nigeria. Only three years ago we were importing 5 million dollar worth of rice daily. Today we produce locally 10 million metric tonnes of paddy rice annually. And we are importing only two percent of our rice consumption now. Investments in milling capacity has risen astronomically since then, with one investor putting a million tonnes of milling capacity into the market. Carlos Farms, a Mexican fruit and vegetable investor, had initially planned to grow bananas and pineapples for export; until he discovered that he was making more money selling his bananas locally at $3 dollars a kilogramme, for what he would have been paid only a dollar per kg in Europe.

With a substantial percentage of the world’s arable land and over half of that uncultivated, it is becoming clearer that the world will be looking to Africa, and Nigeria in particular, as its food basket. Just to take China’s demand alone, China has 27% of the world’s population, but only 7% of the world’s arable land for agriculture. China needs 2 million tonnes of hybrid Soya beans per annum for livestock feed and vegetable oil. But we have not met that demand.”

One heart-warming development is that with the priority given to the revitalization of the mining sector, a nickel deposit was found in Kaduna State which has been described as ‘world class and highly unusual. We are also diversifying within oil, while adding that Nigeria is already exporting urea since it is producing more than enough for its domestic needs and in the very near future.

In the service sector, about 1.8 million international travellers spend two nights on average at Nigeria’s estimated 10,000 hotel rooms yearly. This generated about US$210 million in revenue for the industry in 2017, which barely reflects on Nigeria’s US$500 billion GDP size. Nigeria’s hotel industry alone is projected to grow by double digits by 2020, as the sector bounces back post-recession to one of the fastest growing in the world, and the possibilities for investors is significant.

I shared this and more at The Nigerian-German Investment Dialogue in Berlin, Germany.

(NTA)

128 Deaths, 2, 254 Injuries Recorded in Road Crashes-FRSC

 

A total of 128 persons died, while 2, 254 others were injured in 673 road crashes across the country in September, according to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

FRSC disclosed this in its monthly Road Traffic Crash (RTC) Report signed by the Corps Marshal, Mr Boboye Oyeyemi, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

The September figures indicated a general reduction in all parameters with 31 per cent and 17 per cent reduction in crashes and fatality cases respectively as compared to those of August.

The report said the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had the highest number of crashes and fatality cases in September with recorded 81 crashes and 22 fatalities.

“Kaduna, Niger, Ogun, Yobe and Oyo followed in order of magnitude,’’ the report stated.

Analysis based on crash-prone routes revealed that Kaduna-Abuja road recorded the highest number of crashes in the month under review.

“Lagos-Ibadan road followed with 48 cases and Abuja-Lokoja road recorded 37 cases,’’ the report said.

It also revealed that speed violation accounted for 359 cases or 51 per cent of the total road accidents in the month under review.

“Out of the total of 1,099 vehicles involved in road crashes in September, cars accounted for 366 representing 33 per cent.

“Mini buses followed with 224 representing 20 per cent while motorcycle with 209 represented 11 per cent,’’ it stated.

It said further that the number of crashes in September when compared with that of the corresponding month in 2017 showed two per cent reduction in fatality.

The report also showed 11 per cent increase in crashes and 15 per cent increase in the number of persons injured.

It however noted that road crash injuries could be prevented through a holistic involvement and synergy from multiple sectors such as transport and police, among others.

The report urged the Federal Government to take steps to ensure that the National Assembly provided an effective legislation capable of ensuring safety on roads.

“This is as our existing traffic laws do not reflect contemporary safety needs of the public,’’ the report said. (NAN)

(NTA)

FRSC Takes Safety Campaign on Distracted Driving to Various Motor Parks in Lagos

 

Road safety awareness in schools

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said it has started enlightenment and sensitisation on distracted driving, for motorists especially commercial drivers at various motor parks in Lagos, to curb fatality during the ember months.

Mr Hyginus Omeje, the FRSC Lagos State Sector Commander, disclosed this on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Omeje said that ember month was a critical period in the operational activities of FRSC, occasioned by the increase in human and vehicular movement with some colossal negative consequences.

According to him, the command recently observed that with utmost dismay the hazardous overloading pattern of commercial fleet operators, such that even the aisle of the buses are obstructed up to the door with luggage.

He said that in the event of an emergency, escape became difficult in such situations.

“We have sent a notification of clampdown to all the fleet operators in Lagos intimating them of a clamp down, which commenced Dec. 1.

“And the command has a strategic initiative introduced a special ember month advocacy campaign targeted at passenger carrying fleet operators.

“We focus more on overloading, use of phone while driving, passenger manifest, driving under influence, driver’s license
violation and excessive speed and other related offenses.

“The advocacy started at 6.30 a.m and ended at 7.30 p.m, where we speak about danger of overloading, driving under influence of drugs and alcohol, dangerous overtaking, importance of seat belt and the role of passengers in ensuring safe driving and safe arrival.

NAN reports that FRSC had said that it has partnered with other stakeholders to sensitise the motoring public. on safe driving to reduce deaths on the highways during the festive period.

Mr John Meheux, the FRSC Zonal Commanding Officer, in charge of both Ogun and Lagos States, spoke at the safety rally to sensitise commercial drivers at Ikorodu Motor Parks.

Meheux, also the Assistant Corps Marshal, said that it has become a tradition in FRSC, to intensify patrol operations and public enlightenment as the year draws to an end.

He said that the yearly ember months operations of FRSC, was aimed at traffic gridlocks as there used to be increase in vehicular movements on the

(NTA)

Vote Buying a Threat to Nigeria’s Democracy- Saraki, Dogara

Image result for dogara

President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, on Monday said vote buying is a threat to the nation’s democracy.
Speaking at a public hearing in Abuja, they called for urgent action by stakeholders, especially security agencies to check the menace before the 2019 general election.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the hearing was conducted by the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja.
In a keynote address, Saraki said the country was in a delicate situation as the entire world was looking forward to what would happen in the coming general election.
This, he said, is understandable considering that President Muhammadu Buhari is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS).
“Moreover, the Chairman of INEC is the head of Electoral Commissions in West Africa.
“With these positions, it is clear that we cannot afford to conduct an election that will not be credible, peaceful, free and fair.
“It is noteworthy that in 2015, we set an enviable standard that encouraged more countries in Africa to democratise.
“In 2019, we cannot lower the standard. We must up the ante, because whatever we do will have impact on the continent and serve as a representation of Africa on the global stage,” he said.
Saraki noted that the country could not afford to send wrong signals with its actions or inactions in the build-up to the election.
He said that Nigeria must tell the world in action that it was ready to improve its electoral process by making it more transparent and commendable.
“At this point, it does seem to me that the onus is on INEC to demonstrate its independence. It should be pro-active and take bold decisions.
“And this is necessary because the responsibility to conduct a credible poll is solely that of the Commission. This is elemental to retaining the confidence of the electorate,” he said.
He expressed worry over alleged collusion by security agents with political actors to disenfranchise voters, citing reports of voter intimidation in the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun.
“We cannot under any circumstances militarise election, because that defeats the purpose of free, fair and credible poll.
“In an election, access to the polling units for the purpose of casting one’s vote is the bare minimum.
“INEC must set the rules for their engagement during elections, which they are to follow.
“The Commission should further seek the co-operation of respective security agencies to ensure strict compliance,” he said.
On his part, Dogara described vote buying as the highest form of corruption.
He said although “undue influence of voters” was a global phenomenon, the recent “direct pricing and buying of votes as if in a market square is very disturbing”.
Dogara said, “It is disheartening that this absurd phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions in recent times.
“As citizens, we must not surrender to this criminality as we cannot do so and still expect honour.
“When political office holders defy the law and corruptly assume office, they will always operate as if they are above the law.
“Vote buying and other sundry criminal manipulation of the electoral process in Nigeria has left our citizens in a state of unmitigated disaster,’’ he said.
He added that the nation’s democracy had stagnated and would sadly remain so until Nigerians eliminate all sham election that produces their worst as leaders over their best.
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Suleiman Nazif, blamed vote buying on poverty, unemployment, lack of stringent punitive measures, lawlessness, laxity of law enforcement agencies, insufficient voter education, and ignorance, among others.
Nazif said the public hearing was, therefore, held to seek suggestions from stakeholders on how to find lasting solutions to the problem.(NAN)

(NTA)

Yobe Govt. Establishes Budget and Planning Departments in 17 LGAs

eid-el-fitr-yobe-government-restriction-vehicular-movement

The Yobe Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam has approved the establishment of budget and planning departments in the 17 local government areas of the state.

Gaidam disclosed this on Monday in Damaturu at the opening ceremony of a 4-day retreat session organised for local government chairmen, councillors, directors, head of departments and other senior officials of the 17 LGAs.

“I have approved the establishment of budget and planning departments in all the 17 LGAs of the state as part of the strategy to enhance the budgeting processes for better performance.

“In this respect, I hereby direct Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to work with the office of the Head of Service, Ministry of Budget and Planning and Local Government Service Commission.

“To provide necessary guidance and set the machinery in motion for the take-off of the new departments in the local governments,” the governor said.

The Chairman Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, Alhaji Kyari Batarama described the gesture as timely and commendable. (NAN)

(NTA)

NNPC Says it has 2.6bn litres of Petrol in Stock

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NPPC) says it has 2.6 billion litres of petroleum products offshore and onshore in Lagos State to meet the nation’s demands.

Mr Isiaka Abudulrasaq, the Chief Financial Officer of NNPC gave the assurance in an interactive session with journalists in Lagos on the corporation’s stewardship to Nigerians in Lagos on Saturday.

Abdulrasaq said that the country has about 52-day-petroleum sufficiency, adding that this represented an average of 50 million litres per day products availability on land.

He said that motorists and other consumers of petroleum products are assured of adequate stock to meet their energy needs.

The CFO further dispelled insinuations of any impending petroleum products scarcity in the country.

He said that providing information on the petroleum products stock level became imperative to dispel suggestions that the threat of strike by the DAPPMA would result in a slip into a round of products shortages across the country.

He advised motorists not to engage in panic buying as the corporation would do all it could to ensure products availability in all parts of the country,

Abudulrasaq said that the corporation had been proactive in importation of petroleum into the country, adding that government has saved over N305 billion from subsidy payment.

He, however, condemned insinuations that government is planning to sell the country’s refineries, adding that the refineries are currently undergoing rehabilitation.

Similarly, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers of Nigeria (MOMAN) Mr Clement Isong pledged its association’s commitment towards product availability across the country.

Isong told the News Agency Nigerian (NAN) on phone that MOMAN operations and sales will continue to the general public and no interruptions are planned or expected by the association.

According to him, MOMAN in the company of other marketers associations met with representatives of the government on Dec. 6 where they held discussions on the outstanding payments owed marketers by government.

“At that meeting, government made some proposals on how to settle the outstanding debt and marketers requested some adjustments to these proposals by government and are expecting to hear from government.

“MOMAN had at no time issued an ultimatum or threat to stop operations or sales and will continue operations and sales to the public throughout the Christmas and end of year period while engagements with the government continue.

“This is to ensure that payment of what is due to Marketers is made as soon as possible to avoid the collapse of many stakeholders in the downstream petroleum sector,’’ he said.

NAN

(NTA)

Human Rights Day: NHRC Urges Plateau Residents to Report Cases

The National Human Rights Commission (NRHC) has urged Plateau residents to report cases of human rights abuse to it for prompt action.

Mrs Grace Pam, the North Central Zonal Coordinator of the commission, made the call at an awareness campaign it organised to mark the 70th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day on Monday in Jos.

According to Pam, most people don’t report incidence of human rights to appropriate authorities, hence making the ugly trend a continuous one.
“We are in a democratic dispensation where there should be high regard for human rights, unfortunately it is not so.

“But over time, we have discovered that people are ignorant of their rights and don’t even know when those rights are being violated.

“So, we are creating this awareness to further sensitise our people on the Plateau, to know their rights and also report to appropriate quarters when these rights are violated, ” she said.

On whether the commission collects fee to defend the victims of abuse, Pam said NRHC performed its function Pro-bono and hence denied such claim.

She explained that some private individuals collected money to defend the rights of citizens, but that no member of staff of the commission was allowed to collect a fee.
“We are constitutionally mandated to defend the right of every Nigerian, and so, we don’t attach any fee to performing our duties.

“No member of staff of the commission is allowed to collect any fee before attending to cases of violation, and anyone caught doing that will be decisively dealt with.”

The coordinator said that the international human rights day is set aside to remember victims of abuse and those working to defend such victims. (NAN)

(NTA)

10.12.18

GOP leader who gloated about Benghazi probe wants Dems to refrain from investigating Trump

Kevin McCarthy is singing a very different tune about congressional investigations than he did during the Obama years.

Soon-to-be House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) staked out a new position on congressional investigations in an interview with Fox News on Monday. Unlike his years leading the charge on Benghazi, McCarthy now thinks that Democrats should drop their subpoena power when it comes to President Donald Trump.

“It looks like what [Democrats will] focus on is just more investigations. I think American is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda,” McCarthy said. “I think there are other problems out there that we really should be focused upon. And my belief is, let’s see where we can work together — let’s move America forward.”

“We have investigated this for a long period of time,” he added. “Both sides have come up with nothing in the process. I think we should put the American people first.”

While it’s true that House Republicans’ investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election didn’t turn up any evidence of collusion, there are indications that was primarily due to the partisan motivations of the lawmakers who ran the investigation.

Devin Nunes, the outgoing House Intelligence Committee chair, worked hand-in-hand with the White House to politicize intelligence reports, and was even caught on tape admitting that his overriding motivation is to protect Trump.

During a Fox News interview in March, Nunes attempted to justify abruptly ending his committee’s investigation using a talking point that had been debunked eight months earlier — that the Trump Tower meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions.

McCarthy’s misleading comments are an early sign of how he plans to lead his conference through the coming onslaught of Democratic investigations. The man who once wanted to endlessly investigate Hillary Clinton doesn’t feel the same when it’s his own party in the White House.

Politically motivated investigations for me, not for thee

During a moment of accidental candor in 2015, McCarthy admitted during an interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that House Republicans’ seemingly unending investigation of Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack was about hurting her poll numbers.

Here’s what McCarthy said:

What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?

But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.

While McCarthy had no problem with a transparently politicized investigation of a Democrat with presidential aspirations three years ago, he’s now urging the incoming House majority to lay off the president because investigating him would be divisive.

In private, McCarthy himself has alluded to one of the reasons an investigation of Trump is warranted. During a secretly recorded June 2016 conversation with GOP leaders, McCarthy infamously said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.”

House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) indicated on Twitter he was not persuaded by the case McCarthy made urging his caucus to lay off the president.

Defending Trump by downplaying and deflecting

Ironically, the first part of McCarthy’s interview on Fox News on Monday was about former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday. House Republicans forced Comey to testify as part of a last-ditch effort to gin up a baseless conspiracy theory about how the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump campaign is rooted in anti-Trump bias among the bureau’s senior leadership.

At another point during the interview, McCarthy tried to downplay Trump’s false statements denying that his campaign was in contact with Russians.

“If you’re in an international city, people interact with a lot of individuals,” McCarthy said — his implication being that meeting with Kremlin-connected Russians offering dirt on your political opponents while your business is secretly pursuing real estate opportunities in Moscow really isn’t that out of the norm.

Later, McCarthy dismissed federal prosecutors directly implicating Trump in crimes committed by his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen.

“What it shows is that if the president hires an attorney to solve a problem, he expects them to do it in legal manner,” McCarthy said. “If [incoming Intelligence Committee chair Adam] Schiff is taking this beyond to go forward and say there is an impeachable offense because of a campaign finance problem, there’s a lot of members of Congress who are doing to have to leave.”

In fact, no currently serving members of Congress have been accused of funneling illegal payments to women to hush up extramarital affairs.

source: vox

It’s official: Trump’s asylum crisis is driven by people coming legally

The Supreme Court’s surprising decision on Planned Parenthood, explained

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh participates in a ceremonial swearing in on October 8, 2018, in Washington, DC.

The way Justices Kavanaugh and Roberts voted could say a lot about the Court in the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up two cases that could have given states broader leeway to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

By denying certiorari in Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast and Andersen v. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, the Court let stand lower court rulings that states cannot ban Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements when the group treats low-income patients. A number of states had sought to institute such bans in recent years.

Planned Parenthood praised the Court’s decision, as the group has long argued that restricting Medicaid payments would jeopardize low-income patients’ access to potentially lifesaving services like cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

“We are pleased that lower court rulings protecting patients remain in place,” said Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement to the media on Monday. “As a doctor, I have seen what’s at stake when people cannot access the care they need, and when politics gets in the way of people making their own health care choices.”

The Court’s decision also offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the Supreme Court in the aftermath of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh joined the majority to allow the lower court’s decision to stand, leading some to speculate that he and others on the Court want to avoid cases related to abortion rights or Planned Parenthood for now after his bruising confirmation fight.

Justice Clarence Thomas said as much in his dissenting opinion, in which he also cited the claim that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the “illegal sale of fetal organs” — an unsubstantiated claim made by an anti-abortion group whose members were later charged with a felony.

The Court’s decision about Gee and Andersen doesn’t tell us how it would rule in a challenge to Roe, which could come at any time. But it does give us some clues about how the justices are approaching the issue of abortion today.

Monday’s decision shows some justices might be dragging their feet on abortion

Andersen v. Planned Parenthood came about because, in 2016, the state of Kansas announced its intent to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid payments. It was one of several states to make such a move in the wake of hidden-camera videos released by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress in 2015, which purported to show that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit.

The videos, which, it was later revealed, had been edited prior to publication, did not prove that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue — the group said it only accepted enough money to cover costs, which is legal. A federal investigation and a number of state investigations also failed to find evidence of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part. Meanwhile, two Center for Medical Progress activists who filmed the videos face felony charges in California, accused of illegally recording people without their consent.

But Kansas remains committed to stripping funding from Planned Parenthood, and so when a federal appeals court ruled against the state’s Medicaid plan, Kansas appealed to the Supreme Court. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case, which means the appeals court’s decision will stand. That court found that states could not simply cut off Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood or other providers “for any reason they see fit, especially when that reason is unrelated to the provider’s competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides.”

The story behind Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast is similar. Louisiana tried to cut off Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood in 2015, and in 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that the state could not do so. The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday lets that ruling stand.

In declining to take the cases, the Supreme Court’s four more liberal members — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — were joined by Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, as Politico reports.

The fact that Kavanaugh voted to deny certiorari may come as a surprise to some. In the run-up to his confirmation, he was viewed by many as a reliable anti-abortion vote. Andersen and Gee don’t directly deal with abortion — Medicaid is already prohibited from paying for abortions in most cases, and the payments involved in the Kansas and Louisiana bans cover services like STI testing and contraceptive counseling. But the states were inspired by the Center for Medical Progress videos, and the entire controversy over funding for Planned Parenthood is, essentially, a controversy about abortion.

It’s possible that, after Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle, during which Christine Blasey Ford and other women said that the nominee had committed sexual misconduct against them, Roberts and Kavanaugh are wary of touching the abortion issue too soon. That’s what Thomas speculates in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

“What explains the Court’s refusal to do its job here?” Thomas writes, referring to the majority’s decision not to take the cases. “I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some respondents in these cases are named ‘Planned Parenthood.’”

Thomas’s suggestion “sends an interesting signal in the legal fight over abortion rights,” writes Matt Ford at the New Republic. Advocates on both sides of the issue assumed Kavanaugh would provide conservatives on the Court with the votes necessary to overturn, or at least substantially weaken, Roe v. Wade, Ford notes.

But “Monday’s decision suggests that the damage inflicted on the court’s public image by Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle may have changed that calculus, and that a substantive move against abortion rights may be further away than many previously thought.”

It’s possible that, following a confirmation process that was far more difficult and controversial than they expected, Roberts and Kavanaugh may want to wait before taking up an abortion case. But that doesn’t mean the day will never come. And others on the Court may not want to wait forever.

Justice Thomas seems eager to forge ahead

In his opinion, Thomas, who has voted consistently against abortion rights, writes that Gee and Andersen “arose after several states alleged that Planned Parenthood affiliates had, among other things, engaged in ‘the illegal sale of fetal organs’ and ‘fraudulent billing practices,’ and thus removed Planned Parenthood as a state Medicaid provider.”

The opinion makes no mention of the fact that these allegations stemmed from edited videos whose producers are under indictment, and that no evidence to support them has ever been found.

By uncritically repeating the allegation that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue, as well as by chastising the majority for their decision not to take up the case, Thomas may be showing that he, at least, is ready to hear a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Alito and Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, may be ready as well.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump boasted that he would appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade would be overturned “automatically.” Monday’s decision shows that the process may be more complicated than that. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

source: vox

A groundbreaking antitrust lawsuit is ensnaring the generic drug industry

2018 was by far the worst year on record for gun violence in schools

Opposition Short Of Ideas, Deploying Fake News As Arsenal – Lai Mohammed

FG to raise N300m loan for arts sector

Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Minister of Information and Culture

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Monday alleged that the opposition is deploying fake news as a weapon against President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration ahead of the 2019 elections.

The minister, who made the allegation at a media briefing in Abuja, said the opposition was short of ideas and resulted in fake news because they could not fault the administration on performance.

“The biggest weapon in the arsenals of the opposition today is fake news.

“We have it on good authority that the opposition has hired technology companies to turn out fake news some that will look plausible but at the end of the day it will be fake,’’ he said.

Specifically, the minister gave an instance where he was recently quoted on the social media as saying that the President could no longer speak and understand his mother tongue, Fulfude because of the surgery he underwent in London.

“This is again another version of the fake news from the same people that manufacture the story of the cloning of the President. It is fake.

“What borders me is that it is not going to stop. In the days ahead, because of the run-up to the 2019 elections, you will hear more incredulous fake news.

“This is simply because the opposition has run out of ideas, they know that they cannot debate on issues and they have resulted to fabricating fake news,’’ he said.

The minister said that the government had raised alarm over the fake news phenomenon as far back as 2017.

He said the government became so concerned about the dimension the menace was going when it launched a National Campaign against fake news in July.

Mohammed charged the media to promote the issue-based campaign and shun “silly and unsubstantiated’’ claims that are fake.

The minister also responded to a recent allegation by the opposition that the Traders’ Money programme being executed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was vote buying.

Mohammed said the programme had commenced ever before the electioneering campaign and it was one of the social intervention and poverty alleviation policies of the administration.

“We did not start the programme today and it has no political undertone.

“The opposition who made the allegation is jittery because of its acceptance and its transparency,’’ he said.
He said the administration would continue to implement its poverty alleviation programme for the benefit of the masses not minding the baseless criticism by the opposition. (NAN)

(NTA)

The Trump administration’s tone-deaf school lunch move

Under Trump, schools won’t have to lower their sodium targets for now — which means kids can still be served lunches that meet their maximum daily recommended intake of salt.

The USDA is loosening school nutrition standards as childhood obesity soars.

The Trump administration wants to keep the salt, fat, and sugar in kids’ lunches.

The new rules, first announced in May 2017 by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as part of a plan to “Make School Meals Great Again,” will officially relax Obama-era nutrition standards for federally subsidized school lunch programs.

That means 99,000 schools, feeding 30 million kids, can offer 1 percent chocolate and strawberry milk again, more refined white flour products, and, most importantly, freeze sodium levels in school lunches instead of reducing them further.

“These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve,” Perdue said in a statement. In May 2017, when the agency released temporary legislation ahead of the new final rule, the USDA said schools had been asking for more control over the whole grains, sodium, and milk they serve kids.

But it’s hard not to view the announcement as an attack on significant nutritional improvements to the school lunch program during the Obama administration, and Michelle Obama’s legacy of fighting the obesity.

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the 30 million kids dependent on the free and low-cost meals provided by the program now get more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of the bland fish stick tacos and mystery meat they had come to expect. Of all the issues to prioritize, Perdue has been targeting school lunches since his first days in office.

Perdue’s changes are mostly cosmetic — but they signal there’s more to come

To understand what’s changing, we should first explain what the previous administration achieved. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act centered on cleaning up school food, which was, quite frankly, a carnival of abominably unhealthy options. Since school lunches are an important touchstone of nutrition for many American children, getting the act passed became a key focus of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity.

The law required the federal government to use recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make the National School Lunch Program more nutritious, with more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, and less sodium, full-fat milk, and meat.

The law also mandated that schools stop marketing fat-, sugar-, and salt-laden snacks — like sugary beverages and chocolate bars — in cafeterias and vending machines and replace those offerings with lower-calorie and more nutritious alternatives like fruit cups and granola bars. The USDA also gave schools 10 years to gradually reduce sodium in the lunches they served. The first benchmark of reduction went into effect in 2014, and the second phase was supposed to go into effect this coming school year.

Perdue’s USDA will allow schools to delay that second benchmark of further reducing the sodium levels in school lunches until 2024-2025, seven years later than the initial requirement. It also wants schools to be able to serve flavored 1 percent milk again, and only ensure that half of the weekly grains in school lunches and breakfast are whole grains.

Some of these changes are more superficial than significant. Schools already served flavored nonfat milk, so the addition of 1 percent flavored milk is not a major change. And schools could already apply for waivers to get around moving to whole-grain versions of certain products, so Perdue’s USDA is simply relaxing that process further.

The freeze on sodium reductions is the most noteworthy shift, since it means schools can still serve kids lunches that meet their maximum daily recommended sodium intake for another six years.

“Virtually all school districts have met the first sodium reduction targets. Instead of building on that progress, the Administration has chosen to jeopardize children’s health in the name of deregulation,” said Margo Wootan, a longtime nutrition advocate and director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement.

Most significantly, these changes feel an awful lot like a sign of more to come, Wootan told Vox last May. Legally, it actually wouldn’t be very difficult for the Trump administration to further roll back the school nutrition standards and dismantle pieces of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. “To change the nutrition standards, the agency would have to go through rulemaking,” she said. “They don’t need Congress to do it.” And with their new rules, that’s what they’re doing.

Politically, though, rolling back school lunch standards may be a little trickier, Wootan added, as the majority of parents support the legislation. And while students and schools did complain about the standards in the early days, and even experienced some revenue losses, they’ve largely adapted to them with no long-term financial impact. To date, nearly all US schools are in compliance. That may be why the administration, at least for now, is treading softly.

To justify the move Perdue has used an argument that Republicans fall back on time and time again: “If kids aren't eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” he said in May 2017. Wasted food is indeed a problem in schools — but it has little to do with the nutrition standards: Levels of food waste didn’t change after the standards were implemented, and researchers have found that kids in the program are actually eating more fruits and vegetables today.

Our research shows participation in the school lunch program has actually increased among lower-income children and remained high among children buying full-priced meals, which suggests children have adapted as well,” Juliana Cohen, a nutrition professor at Harvard and Merrimack College who has studied school food waste, told Vox in 2017.

“The real [challenge for reducing food waste] is to focus on palatability,” she added. “If we don’t focus on the taste of the foods and really improving the taste of the foods, this likely won’t address food waste in schools.” Perdue’s relaxing of standards related to milk, whole grains, and salt won’t do that.

The move also seems pretty tone-deaf. “The public has never been more interested in nutrition,” Wootan said, “which shows how out of touch this administration is with where the American people are and how they regularly put special interests before the interests of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

We’ll have to wait and see what other changes come down from the USDA, but the announcement does not bode well for the food movement or for America’s children, whose rates of obesity are projected to soar.

source: vox

“Public charge,” Trump’s controversial proposal to restrict legal immigration, explained

A proposed DHS regulation that could seriously restrict low-income immigrants has received over 150,000 comments.

While President Trump’s attention, and the nation’s, has been on the US/Mexico border, his administration has been quietly chugging through the regulatory process with a proposal that would make it extremely difficult for many immigrants to come to the US or receive green cards if they’re deemed likely to use public benefits like food stamps or Medicaid.

But it hasn’t escaped comment — or outrage — at all.

The draft proposal, which was first unveiled by the Department of Homeland Security in late September, would overhaul how the government evaluates whether a would-be immigrant is “not likely to be a public charge” (a requirement of many visa categories and green card applications).

Monday marks the end of the 60-day period for “public comment” on the proposal, which the Department of Homeland Security is required to take into account before revising and publishing the final regulation.

Over 150,000 comments have already been mailed to US Citizenship and Immigration Services or submitted online at Regulations.gov — much more than any regulatory proposal typically gets, much less a 400-plus page regulation that proposes a complicated rubric for immigration officers.

While most of the comments haven’t yet been publicly posted online, it’s fair to say that most of the activity around the proposal has come from outraged immigrant-rights and economic-justice groups — as well as medical associations deeply concerned about the potential for families to forego necessary health services for fear of jeopardizing their immigration status.

The current “public charge” definition is so narrow that the government almost never rejects applications on those grounds. The Trump administration’s proposed new definition, on the other hand, would require a far-ranging inventory of an immigrant’s history and economic prospects. It would give enormous discretion to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers to reject an immigrant’s application for admission, or for a green card, because the officer feels the immigrant doesn’t make enough money to support a large family or doesn’t have the resources to provide health care for a preexisting condition.

At the heart of the new regulation is a change in how the government looks at public benefits an immigrant has already used or is likely to use. While only cash benefits are considered right now — benefits that only 3 percent of noncitizens use — the new approach would include Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), Section 8 and other housing benefits, and subsidies for low-income earners in Medicare Part D.

Having used those benefits wouldn’t automatically disqualify an immigrant from being able to get a green card (permanent residency in the United States and the prerequisite to US citizenship). The government says it would not count against an immigrant any benefits used before the rule went into effect — which won’t happen for several more months. And there’s a complicated formula for how much support an immigrant can receive before damaging her chances for a future green card.

The problem is that while the regulation itself is complex — and in some ways more moderate than earlier versions of the proposal leaked to Vox and the Washington Post earlier this year — the message that immigrants are likely to receive is simple: that they shouldn’t use public benefits if they want to stay in the US. Local service providers (from public assistance clinics to pediatricians) are already seeing this “chilling effect” just based on rumors of the rule and the Trump administration’s generally hawkish tone toward immigrants.

So the newly proposed regulation matters in two different arenas.

If the regulation is implemented in its current form — something that most of the people submitting public comments are hoping to prevent, and that (if the administration doesn’t revise the rule before finalizing it) advocates may sue to avoid— it has the potential, depending on how it’s interpreted on the ground, to change the face of legal immigration to America by sharply reducing family-based immigration from lower-income, less educated people in countries like China, Mexico, and Cuba.

But in the meantime — regardless of how the final regulation looks — immigrants currently in the US, many of whom won’t be affected by the proposal, will likely continue to retreat from social services use out of fear that something might happen to them.

The current definition of “public charge” is really narrow — but it was never formalized

One of the oldest reasons for the US to reject a would-be immigrant — right up there with the immigrant being Chinese — was suspicion that the immigrant was “likely to become a public charge.” That language was added to the Immigration Act of 1882 and was interpreted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service as a requirement that immigrants show on arrival that they had $25 in cash.

It was a hard test to pass. As many as 70 percent of all immigrants who got turned back between 1890 and 1920 were barred on public charge grounds. But standards got more lenient over time; public charge accounted for only 4 percent of denials in the 1940s and less than 1 percent after 1950.

Eventually, a policy emerged that “public charge” shouldn’t be a binary test, but rather a judgment based on the “totality of the circumstances.” The 1996 immigration law IIRIRA codified what circumstances should be considered: age, health, family status, financial status, and education/skills.

When some immigration officers started denying applications from any immigrant who had taken any public benefits, the Clinton administration sought to clarify the rule. In 1999, it issued “field guidance” that only cash-based income assistance — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and SSI — would be considered, and those benefits would have to account for over 50 percent of an immigrant’s income for her to count as dependent on public benefits.

Since very few noncitizens even qualified for those benefits to begin with, that wasn’t a terribly difficult standard. And even if someone was initially refused because of likelihood of being a public charge, they could submit more evidence — or at least get a relative to sign an affidavit to support them financially — and ultimately get approved. Furthermore, not all immigrants have to pass a “public charge” test — refugees and asylees, for example, don’t have to pass it either to get admitted to the US to begin with or to get a green card.

The Clinton “field guidance” is still in place, but it’s never been formalized as a regulation. In fact, “public charge” has never been defined in a regulatory sense at all. The Trump administration is proposing to fix that — and lay out in regulation exactly who counts as a public charge, and how those decisions are made.

Getting food stamps or Medicaid coverage for US citizen kids won’t hurt an immigrant — but getting them for herself will

After the public comment period ends Monday, the Department of Homeland Security is obligated to go through all comments and to consider revisions based on particularly good points. (The government doesn’t actually have to make any changes, and it certainly doesn’t need to moderate a rule just because more comments oppose it than support it. But not making any changes in the face of well-argued comments might open the government up to a lawsuit for violating the intent of the Administrative Procedures Act by sabotaging the comment period.)

The final rule will probably come out in a matter of months, and will go into effect 60 days after it is published — unless put on hold by the courts first.

The Department of Homeland Security proposes to define a “public charge” as someone who “receives one or more public benefits” to cover basic needs such as health, nutrition, or housing.

But the government isn’t proposing that any use of public benefits makes someone a “public charge” — and therefore ineligible for a green card or visa. It’s set up a complicated rubric for what, exactly, counts as reliance on public benefits that would make someone a likely public charge.

For one thing, no immigrant currently using benefits would be penalized for that in the future (except for TANF and SSI, which under the Clinton field guidance are currently used to assess “public charge” anyway). The administration will only judge immigrants for use of public benefits after the regulation has been finalized, which won’t happen for months.

For another — in a change from previous leaked drafts of the regulation — the government will only look at benefits an immigrant is getting for herself, not at all benefits being received by members of her household. An immigrant who is getting food stamps for her US citizen children but not for herself, for example, isn’t officially using public benefits by the proposed new definition — and therefore isn’t an inadmissible “public charge.”

The proposal breaks down benefits into two different categories: benefits that “can be monetized” (i.e., that have a dollar value attached to them), and those that can’t.

  • Benefits that “can be monetized”: TANF/SSI (status quo), SNAP, Section 8 housing benefits
  • Benefits that “cannot be monetized”: Medicaid, low-income Medicare Part D assistance, other subsidized housing

There are three tests, based on these categories, to reach the threshold for reliance on public benefits in a way that could all but disqualify an immigrant from a visa or green card:

  1. Individual use of “monetized” benefits over 12 consecutive months that total more than 15 percent of federal poverty guidelines for a single-person household ($1,821 in 2016), or
  2. Individual use of “non-monetized” benefits for more than 12 months in any previous 36-month period, or
  3. Any individual use of “monetized” benefits plus individual use of “non-monetized” benefits for more than nine months in any previous 36-month period

Flunking one of these tests is a “strongly weighted negative factor” that will generally lead to someone getting labeled a “public charge” and denied. (And an immigrant could help her case by showing she won’t use these benefits in future — for example, by including a letter showing she un-enrolled from them before applying for a green card.) But it’s only part of the “totality of the circumstances,” which include a range of other factors and tests — some of which the administration is also seeking to make more restrictive.

Having a large family, for example, will be a “negative factor”; having a health condition and not having private health insurance would be another “negative factor,” as is being under 18 or over 65.

On the flip side, having a household income between 125 and 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines ($31.375 to $62,750 for a family of four as of 2016) would be a positive factor, and an income over 250 percent would be a “strongly weighted positive factor.”

In some cases, the government will allow someone to come to the US (or get a green card) even if it deems them a likely “public charge.” But the immigrant or a sponsor would have to put up a bond of $10,000 or more — which would be forfeited if the immigrant ended up using social services.

It’s hard to know how many immigrants could be barred under the proposal — but it could be in the millions

The irony is that most of the immigrants who are eligible for federal public benefits aren’t affected by the proposal. Most immigrants aren’t eligible for public benefits until they’ve had green cards for five years — and while there are exceptions, such as refugees and asylees, those groups are also exempt from having to pass a public charge test to get green cards.

That means it’s unlikely that a lot of immigrants will end up getting visas or green cards denied because of benefits use itself. It’s more likely they’ll be barred because of other factors like income or education.

In the proposal, DHS estimates that 382,600 green card applications a year would be subject to the new public charge test (and an additional 517,500 applications for other types of visas could be subjected to a version of the test at the discretion of USCIS officials). But it doesn’t hazard a guess as to how many of them would pass. That’s because the proposal is essentially a rubric for USCIS officers to follow and apply at their discretion, which is difficult to forecast.

Immigration and social services advocates are particularly concerned about the proposal’s treatment of household income — labeling it a “wealth test” that could exclude anyone making less than $62,750 a year (the threshold for a “strongly positive” finding). If that happens, it would totally change the face of legal immigration to the US. A Migration Policy Institute analysis this summer found that 56 percent of recently arrived noncitizens had incomes below that threshold.

But the way the regulation is laid out, as long as an immigrant not reliant on social services, not making enough money doesn’t in itself count against an immigrant — she just doesn’t get points in her favor. Until the rule is actually in effect, we won’t know whether immigrants who fail to meet the 125 percent “positive” threshold, much less the 250 percent “strongly positive” one, will generally end up getting denied or approved.

In general, advocates assume that the biggest effect won’t be on immigrants who are already here. It will be on immigrants seeking to get green cards so they can immigrate to be with their families — a group that accounted for more than 40 percent of all green cards (for new immigrants and immigrants already in the US) in 2016. These immigrants are more likely than employment-based immigrants to be low-income, less educated, older, and other things that might make them potential “public charges.”

Some family-based immigrants are more at risk than others — less than a quarter of recent Indian immigrants had incomes below the 250 percent threshold, while nearly two-thirds of recent Chinese immigrants and more than two-thirds of recent Mexican immigrants did. So the composition of legal immigration to the US could be in the balance.

The “chilling effect”: immigrants who aren’t targeted by the rule will drop out of social services too

The most certain effect of the proposal — whether or not the regulation is finalized — is one that isn’t in theory a purpose of the regulation itself. The proposal will almost certainly lead thousands of immigrants who aren’t covered by the rule to forgo public benefits that they and their families, including US citizen children, are eligible for.

The overwhelming majority of immigrants in the US — or even social workers, immigration lawyers, or other professionals who could offer guidance — won’t understand the details of this complicated administration proposal.

Instead, what they will take away from the announcement and news coverage of it is the message that immigrants can be punished for using public benefits — and so they should play it safe and un-enroll, or not enroll at all.

DHS, in the proposal, estimates that the newly included benefits will lose about 2.5 percent of their enrollees — or about a third of the noncitizens who are currently enrolled in them. That estimate is almost certainly conservative.

The last time immigrants’ access to public benefits was broadly restricted, in the 1996 welfare reform law, the chilling effect was enormous. Food stamp use by noncitizen families dropped by 43 percent between 1994 and 1998, and TANF use fell 44 percent over that same time period. And those drops were even steeper among refugees — even though refugees were still eligible for benefits under the new law. Refugee use of food stamps fell 60 percent by 1998; use of Medicaid dropped 39 percent; use of TANF dropped 78 percent.

The chilling effect hit US citizen children, too. Even though US citizen kids were still eligible for SNAP benefits, use of SNAP by citizen kids in families with at least one noncitizen parent fell by 53 percent between 1994 and 1998. In other words, more than half of all kids with at least one noncitizen parent fell off the SNAP rolls after a law that was supposed to allow them to stay on.

The existence of the Trump administration is itself a chilling effect for immigrant families. And service providers have already seen immigrants asking to get taken off the benefit rolls based on rumors of the forthcoming regulation. One New York provider found unusual spikes in WIC (food support for women, infants, and children) un-enrollment tied to rumors about the plan. On a press call Sunday, Colleen Kraft of the American Association of Pediatricians relayed reports from members about expectant mothers forgoing prenatal care because they were worried about losing their immigration status and being separated from their children.

It’s extremely hard to design a policy that protects the well-being of US citizen children while tightening the screws on their parents. Chilling effects, by definition, end up hurting people whom the laws aren’t designed to hurt. But the Trump administration has decided that it’s important to encourage immigrants to be wholly “self-sufficient” — to refrain from using any public benefits on a regular basis — and it’s willing to accept the costs.

source: vox

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina appears to reach plea deal with prosecutors

We don’t yet know whether she’s agreed to provide information to the government.

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina appears to have struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Prosecutors and Butina’s lawyers filed a joint motion to set a change of plea hearing on Monday, saying they “have resolved this matter.”

The 30-year-old Butina spent years building ties to the National Rifle Association, conservative activists, and the Republican Party before her arrest and incarceration this July. She was charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government, and initially pleaded not guilty.

The specifics of the plea deal are not yet known. One particularly interesting question is whether Butina has agreed to provide information to prosecutors.

She was not charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but instead by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Prosecutors alleged that Butina was carrying out a plan to influence American politics on behalf of a Russian government official — Russian central bank official Alexander Torshin. Both Butina and Torshin were vocal advocates for gun rights, and they became fixtures at NRA events.

Butina also appears to have been advised by a Republican political consultant, Paul Erickson, on how she could influence US politics and the GOP in particular to be friendlier to Russia. She and Erickson lived together for some time.

There were also several curious incidents during the 2016 campaign that Butina was involved in.

  • In July 2015, Butina attended a conservative event at which Trump spoke, and the candidate called on her to ask a question. She asked about sanctions on Russia, and Trump responded that he knew Putin and he’d get along with Putin. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions,” Trump continued. I think that we would get along very, very well.”
  • Erickson claimed to a Trump campaign staffer that he had a “back-channel to President Putin’s Kremlin” and offered to put the Trump campaign and Russia in contact.
  • In May 2016, the NRA held its convention in Louisville. Butina and Torshin attended, and they met Donald Trump Jr. at a dinner. Don Jr.’s lawyer has said that they only made “gun-related small talk.”

McClatchy has also reported that the FBI is investigating whether Torshin “illegally funneled money” into the NRA that was then spent to help Trump win — perhaps through a shell company Butina and Erickson set up called Bridges LLC.

Overall, though, the exact nature and breadth of what is being investigated related to Butina remains vague — making it unclear exactly how much legal jeopardy the NRA or the Trump camp may be in.

source: vox

Video: 7 Million Disbursed to Youth and Women in Katsina

Seven (7) Million Naira was disbursed as interest free loan to 700 Youth and Women trained in cosmetology and other trades on completion of their 3 month training by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) Katsina state.

Beneficiaries selected from 34 local government areas of Katsina state.

(NTA)

The Trump administration’s tone-deaf school lunch move

Under Trump, schools won’t have to lower their sodium targets for now — which means kids can still be served lunches that meet their maximum daily recommended intake of salt.

The USDA is loosening school nutrition standards as childhood obesity soars.

The Trump administration wants to keep the salt, fat, and sugar in kids’ lunches.

The new rules, first announced by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as part of a plan to “Make School Meals Great Again,” will officially relax Obama-era nutrition standards for federally subsidized school lunch programs.

That means 99,000 schools, feeding 30 million kids, can offer 1 percent chocolate and strawberry milk again, more refined white flour products, and, most importantly, freeze sodium levels in school lunches instead of reducing them further.

“These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve,” Perdue said in a statement. Last May, when the agency released temporary legislation ahead of the new final rule, the USDA said schools had been asking for more control over the whole grains, sodium, and milk they serve kids.

But it’s hard not to view the announcement as an attack on significant nutritional improvements to the school lunch program during the Obama administration, and Michelle Obama’s legacy of fighting the obesity.

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the 30 million kids dependent on the free and low-cost meals provided by the program now get more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of the bland fish stick tacos and mystery meat they had come to expect. Of all the issues to prioritize, Perdue has been targeting school lunches since his first days in office.

Perdue’s changes are mostly cosmetic — but they signal there’s more to come

To understand what’s about to change, we should first explain what the previous administration achieved. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act centered on cleaning up school food, which was, quite frankly, a carnival of abominably unhealthy options. Since school lunches are an important touchstone of nutrition for many American children, getting the act passed became a key focus of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity.

The law required the federal government to use recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make the National School Lunch Program more nutritious, with more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, and less sodium, full-fat milk, and meat.

The law also mandated that schools stop marketing fat-, sugar-, and salt-laden snacks — like sugary beverages and chocolate bars — in cafeterias and vending machines and replace those offerings with lower-calorie and more nutritious alternatives like fruit cups and granola bars. The USDA also gave schools 10 years to gradually reduce sodium in the lunches they served. The first benchmark of reduction went into effect in 2014, and the second phase was supposed to go into effect this coming school year.

Perdue’s USDA will allow schools to delay that second benchmark of further reducing the sodium levels in school lunches until 2024-2025, seven years later than the initial requirement. It also wants schools to be able to serve flavored 1 percent milk again, and only ensure that half of the weekly grains in school lunches and breakfast are whole grains.

Some of these changes are more superficial than significant. Schools already served flavored nonfat milk, so the addition of 1 percent flavored milk is not a major change. And schools could already apply for waivers to get around moving to whole-grain versions of certain products, so Perdue’s USDA is simply relaxing that process further.

The freeze on sodium reductions is the most noteworthy shift, since it means schools can still serve kids lunches that meet their maximum daily recommended sodium intake for another six years.

“Virtually all school districts have met the first sodium reduction targets. Instead of building on that progress, the Administration has chosen to jeopardize children’s health in the name of deregulation,” said Margo Wootan, a longtime nutrition advocate and director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement.

Most significantly, these changes feel an awful lot like a sign of more to come, Wootan told Vox last May. Legally, it actually wouldn’t be very difficult for the Trump administration to further roll back the school nutrition standards and dismantle pieces of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. “To change the nutrition standards, the agency would have to go through rulemaking,” she said. “They don’t need Congress to do it.” And with today’s rule, that’s what they’re doing.

Politically, though, rolling back school lunch standards may be a little trickier, Wootan added, as the majority of parents support the legislation. And while students and schools did complain about the standards in the early days, and even experienced some revenue losses, they’ve largely adapted to them with no long-term financial impact. To date, nearly all US schools are in compliance. That may be why the administration, at least for now, is treading softly.

To justify the move, Perdue has used an argument that Republicans fall back on time and time again: “If kids aren't eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” he said in May 2017. Wasted food is indeed a problem in schools — but it has little to do with the nutrition standards: Levels of food waste didn’t change after the standards were implemented, and researchers have found that kids in the program are actually eating more fruits and vegetables today.

Our research shows participation in the school lunch program has actually increased among lower-income children and remained high among children buying full-priced meals, which suggests children have adapted as well,” Juliana Cohen, a nutrition professor at Harvard and Merrimack College who has studied school food waste, told Vox in 2017.

“The real [challenge for reducing food waste] is to focus on palatability,” she added. “If we don’t focus on the taste of the foods and really improving the taste of the foods, this likely won’t address food waste in schools.” Perdue’s relaxing of standards related to milk, whole grains, and salt won’t do that.

The move also seems pretty tone-deaf. “The public has never been more interested in nutrition,” Wootan said, “which shows how out of touch this administration is with where the American people are and how they regularly put special interests before the interests of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

We’ll have to wait and see what other changes come down from the USDA, but the announcement does not augur well for the food movement or for America’s children, whose rates of obesity are projected to soar.

source: vox

Trump is having a tough time finding his next chief of staff

Outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly, then homeland security secretary, sits next to President Donald Trump in a meeting in the White House in January 2017.

With John Kelly’s exit and Nick Ayers out, there’s no obvious candidate for the job.

It looks like President Donald Trump is going to have a harder time than expected replacing John Kelly as chief of staff.

Nick Ayers, who is currently Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was reportedly whom Trump had in mind for the job, but the 36-year-old operative is apparently out of the running. He tweeted on Sunday that he would be leaving the White House at the end of the year.

That leaves onlookers — and, apparently, many in the White House — with a big question: If not Ayers to replace Kelly, then who? It’s not clear anyone, including the president, has any obvious answers.

There are a number of names in the mix, though none is the obvious frontrunner: House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, according to the New York Times. The Times reports former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie have also been mentioned. According to Politico, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is also in the running.

But of those names, it’s not clear who actually wants the job.

A person familiar with Mnuchin’s thinking told Politico that he is very happy in his current spot as Treasury secretary and thinks that’s where he can be of best use.

In an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Lighthizer signaled he’s not interested in the chief of staff job, telling Margaret Brennan that no one had talked to him about the job.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone,” Lighthizer said. “I’m entirely focused on what I’m trying to do and — it’s difficult enough.”

Politico’s Nancy Cook reported that Mulvaney is also no longer interested in the job.

Being hesitant to take on the chief of staff role is understandable. The Trump White House is notoriously chaotic, and the president has a volatile personality.

Kelly and Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, didn’t exactly exit on the best of terms. Trump announced Priebus’s exit in a tweet. Before Kelly’s departure was revealed, he and Trump were reportedly no longer speaking. Kelly was supposed to announce he was leaving at a staff meeting on Monday, but Trump preempted him, telling reporters on Saturday that Kelly was leaving.

The Times reports that Ayers and Trump couldn’t agree on the terms of his tenure — Ayers had told the president he would serve in an interim capacity through the spring, and Trump wanted him to stay on longer. Ayers plans to return to his home state of Georgia, where he could potentially run for office, and perhaps did not want to run the risk of his reputation being marred by a tumultuous tenure in the Trump administration.

Still, the president continues to insist all is well. He tweeted on Sunday that he’s interviewing “some really great people” for the chief of staff job and will make a decision soon.

Trump is finding out this presidential staffing thing isn’t so easy

The news that Trump is on the hunt for a third chief of staff less than two years into his administration prompted callbacks to his 2012 tweet in which he criticized then-President Barack Obama for turnover in his administration at the chief of staff level.

As Vox’s Dara Lind points out, Obama did have unusually high turnover in the chief of staff spot during his first term, but “Trump will have to hold on to his next chief of staff for over a year not to beat Obama’s pace.” And given the high burn rate in the Trump administration, that might be a heavy lift:

Consider the fact that Trump is now on his second secretary of state (Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo); his third national security adviser (Mike Flynn, H.R. McMaster, and John Bolton); his second secretary of health and human services (Tom Price and Alex Azar); and his second EPA administrator (Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler). He’s just nominated his second UN representative (Nikki Haley and Heather Nauert), though Nauert won’t serve as a Cabinet-level official.

Working in the White House is a high-stakes job, and even more so in the Trump administration, with all the backstabbing and volatility. Trump has diminished the positions and personalities around him, often tweeting criticisms of his own appointees and contradicting members of his administration. It makes sense that anyone in the running to become his next chief of staff would want to give it some serious thought.

source: vox

Trump makes a desperate attempt to downplay illegal payments to women

National Sports Festival: 19 Year Old Stuns Oshonaike in Quarter-finals

It was an exhilarating moment at the Indoor Sports Hall of the Abuja National Stadium, venue of the table tennis event of the ongoing National Sports Festival (NSF) as 19-year-old Nimota Aregbesola beat former African champion, Funke Oshonaike in the quarter-finals women singles.

Aregbesola beat Oshonaike 4-3 (11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 11-6, 11-3, 10-12, 14-12).

Reports say the hall stood still for over an hour, watching the duo and cheering on both players.

It was obviously an exhausting game for both athletes accompanied with disappointments when a point is lost and regained hope when a point is won, but Aregbesola had the upper hand.

Aregbesola of Lagos State, who couldn’t believe the feat she has achieved as she rolled on the floor in excitement, finally said she was aiming for the gold medal.

“I couldn’t believe I will beat Funke. I was confident at the beginning but I lost hope as the game progressed. I just listened to my coach and teammates cheering me on to pull my last point.

“This is my first participation at the NSF, and I am aiming for the gold medal,” she managed to say as fans hurried to celebrate with her.

Oshonaike had teamed up with Segun Toriola, both representing Akwa Ibom but lost in the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles event.

(NAN)

(NTA)

Good riddance to John Kelly

President Donald Trump announced that Chief of Staff John Kelly is out on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

He’s been the chief of staff America didn’t need.

No person’s entire career can be summed up in a single quote. But ousted White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s defense to the charge that the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the border was cruel deserves to be etched into his tombstone.

“The children,” he said, “will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever.”

That is roughly the degree of thoughtfulness and consideration that was put into the policy. And it properly reflects Kelly’s true legacy as chief of staff.

The typical thing to say about Kelly is that he brought order to the White House process. He was the “grown-up in the room” who enforced discipline, but, ultimately, even Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, could not curb President Donald Trump’s most egregious instincts.

But the emphasis on times when Kelly could rein in Trump ignores the extent to which the two men were genuinely like-minded, and the many crucial moments where Kelly exacerbated Trump’s worst instincts.

Kelly intervened to scuttle a potentially sensible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deal while mocking large numbers of DACA-eligible youth as “lazy.” He slandered Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and then for no real reason refused to apologize. He attempted to orchestrate a cover-up of White House aide Rob Porter’s alleged domestic abuse.

Trump is having trouble replacing Kelly. Nick Ayres, the young political operative who’d long been rumored to be next in line, apparently turned down the job. Based on Trump’s hiring track record, we can expect he’ll hire someone terrible. But the Kelly bar is exceptionally low, so America may be in for a stroke of luck. But we owe it to ourselves to remember how bad Kelly was.

Trump is very poorly staffed

No president has been nearly as ignorant as Trump, but no president is knowledgeable about all the issues that come across his desk. We have a historical model for dealing with presidential ignorance, and it involves staffing. A strong chief of staff ensures that the right people are in front of the president, briefing him on their respective areas of expertise.

Kelly has been a spectacular failure in this regard. Trump has, for example, a somewhat idiosyncratic but by no means unique belief that the bipartisan consensus on free trade over the past generation has been a disaster for America. I don’t really agree with the very strong form of this critique that Trump offers, but I’m at least a little bit sympathetic to it. And I know plenty of smart, knowledgeable people who agree with him.

But instead of working with those people to formulate a trade policy that makes sense, Trump has an economic policy team whose main principals (Steve Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, Kevin Hassett, and formerly Gary Cohn) think he’s wrong, and where the main players who agree with him are Peter Navarro (whose ideas are not taken seriously by anyone serious) and Wilbur Ross (who has huge financial conflicts of interest).

As a result, Trump has embarked upon trade policies that are incomprehensible and have managed to somehow simultaneously rattle financial markets with talk of trade war while also increasing the trade deficit.

The chief of staff should be introducing Trump to some competent, qualified advisers who sympathize with Trump’s point of view and can help him come up with ideas that will accomplish something. (I would start with Harvard’s Dani Rodrik, the Economic Policy Institute’s Thea Lee, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Dean Baker.)

Similarly, Trump keeps complaining that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is too eager to raise interest rates, but Trump is not appointing people to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors who share this view. Blame accrues in the first instance to Trump for not bothering to figure this out. But Kelly’s job, for better or worse, is to help make up for some of Trump’s shortcomings, and he just hasn’t been doing it. Instead, in key areas, he’s been making things worse.

Coverage of Trump and Kelly’s relationship has, from the beginning, been a little bit oddly dominated by the question of Kelly’s ability (or lack thereof) to constrain Trump’s bad tweets. As someone who’s gotten in trouble at work for bad tweets myself over the years, I always appreciate focus on this critical topic.

But in the specific context of Trump, the extraordinary thing isn’t his bad tweets but the fact that he has no substantive command of any policy area. He desperately needs a capable chief of staff. Instead, he had Kelly.

Kelly is keeping Congress dysfunctional

In January, it briefly seemed like Democratic congressional leaders and Trump personally had a deal on immigration. The basic contours of the deal were legal status and a path to citizenship for the million or so DACA-eligible young people, who surely constitute the most sympathetic bloc of undocumented people living in the United States. They’d get this legal status in exchange for a huge $20 billion increase in border security money — including Trump’s beloved wall.

But as Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained to Vox’s Tara Golshan at the time, Kelly kept wrecking the deal.

“As soon as the guest leaves the office, Gen. Kelly calls in the right-wingers and they bat it down and say, ‘You can’t do it.’ We’ll never reach an agreement unless there’s a more open approach at the White House and the president is more constructive.” Durbin told Golshan.

“This president is just unable to make a promise and keep it.”

Kelly’s idea was that Trump should hold out for sweeping changes to the law governing asylum and to the way legal immigration to the United States works. Whatever you think of these ideas on the merits, it was inconceivable that Democrats would agree to this — which Kelly surely would know if he’d ever actually listened to immigration activists instead of yelling at them.

The collapse of negotiations has led to a lot of anxiety and suffering among the people who could have benefited — which has, in turn, been a mild drag on the American economy. But in terms of Kelly’s negotiating objectives, he accomplished nothing. Democrats are no closer to giving in on any of these points; the DACA recipients are protected by the courts for now, at least; and Congress is still fighting about border wall funding, with no end in sight.

Trump had unprecedentedly little experience in government for a president, and Kelly chose to back him up by putting himself in charge of a delicate congressional negotiation even though he also had no experience with this — and then the whole thing blew up in everyone’s face.

America can do better than this. Even Trump can do better.

The stench should stick

Unfortunately, the truism that nobody escapes the Trump administration with their reputation intact is not accurate.

Gary Cohn was invited by Harvard’s Institute of Politics to address incoming members of Congress and school them in the ways of the world. (Sean Spicer was an Institute of Politics visiting fellow until recently.) Dina Powell was the featured speaker last week at a gala fundraising luncheon for the Women in Foreign Policy Group.

On his way out the door, Kelly seems to have a reputation (in at least some circles) as a disciplinarian who played a constructive role in the administration.

It’s true that, next to Trump, virtually anyone looks good. It’s also true that any chief of staff is bound to try to undercut Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s influence, which will almost automatically make you a sympathetic-seeming figure in comparison.

But the fact remains that Kelly was a true believer in some of Trump’s very worst ideas, echoed several of his very worst influences, failed completely to compensate for Trump’s most significant personal deficiencies, and intervened at key moments to make things worse. Good riddance.

source: vox